Patient Guide
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Road Map To American Health Care
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Who Takes Care of You? (Health Care Providers)

Home Health CareDoctors and NursesWho Takes Care Of You? Doctors and NursesHospitalsWho Takes Care Of You?
Specialized ClinicsHome Health CareWho Takes Care Of You? HospitalsSpecialty ClinicsWho Takes Care Of You?

Doctors and Nurses

Doctors and nurses are the health care professionals patients come into contact with either in a doctors office, hospital, clinic, or emergency care or rehabilitation facility. They are the ones who provide the actual care. They give us diagnostic evaluations and exams and counsel patients about their health and any necessary procedures. Either a family physician or a Primary Care Physician (PCPs) will usually be a patient's first point of contact. If your health plan requires pre-approval for any specialty care or medical procedures, the plan will usually require a referral from your PCP.


  • Teaching Hospitals: Because teaching hospitals are usually associated with a university or medical school, their staff often has access to the latest medical equipment, and since the doctors are usually also involved in research, there may be a wide range of specialists available who are well versed in the latest medical techniques. However, treatment at a teaching hospital can also mean several students and interns observing your care and treatment, or several different doctors caring for you on different shifts - making it difficult for staff to develop personal relationships with the patients. The state-of-the-art care a patient can get at a teaching hospital may also be more expensive than care at other facilities.

  • Rehabilitation Hospitals:

    • Acute Rehabilitation: Acute rehabilitation hospitals provide a different level of rehabilitation care than a skilled nursing facility. To qualify for admission to an acute rehabilitation hospital, a patient must be capable of performing a minimum of three hours of therapy each day. These facilities are staffed with medical specialists like physiatrists for stroke rehabilitative care. A doctor should refer patients to the type of facility that best meets the patients' needs, although not all insurance plans are designed to acute inpatient rehabilitative care. Medically qualified patients enrolled in traditional Medicare do have coverage for acute inpatient rehabilitation.

Clinics and Nursing Homes

  • Community Clinics: Community clinics are part of the broader movement of health care services from large, centralized hospitals into the residential neighborhoods of the community. Community clinics usually focus on underserved populations of all kinds, such as the geographically underserved, not just the poor and the uninsured. Community clinics offer an increasingly wide variety of medical services; some even have on-site labs and pharmacies. In addition to basic medical care (such as annual check-ups and flu shots), community clinics can often more directly meet the specialized needs of an individual community. For example, an area with a high population of elderly residents may have very different health needs than an area with a large number of families with young children.

  • Specialized Clinics: Specialized clinics, such as the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, treat specific illnesses. At Moffitt and other National Cancer Institute designated facilities, patients benefit from ongoing research in cancer treatment, centralized testing equipment and therapies, as well as from the collective expertise of doctors who specialize in cancer care and surgery. Often, these clinics are affiliated with medical schools. Unlike hospitals, which typically offer a broad array of medical services, specialized clinics are not designed to handle diverse medical needs.

  • Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs): SNFs offer subacute care for medically stable patients, and typically offer less therapy and less specialized physician care. Some SNFs are co-located with hospitals. Others are freestanding or share space inside a nursing home for patients requiring long-term custodial care. SNFs are regulated and licensed by the state in which they operate.

Home Health Care Nurses and Aids

As an alternative to a traditional nursing home, many patients are in a stable enough condition to remain at home while they are sick, yet still need a certain degree of medical supervision. Home health care workers come to the patient's home on a set schedule, often daily, to help the patient with tasks such as taking medications, bathing, dressing, cooking, and physical therapy. Whether the home health care worker will be a registered nurse or an aid depends on the degree of the patient's illness and what the patient's health insurance will cover. Many chronically ill patients need several hours of care each day, some even require care around the clock. Home health care gives these patients an opportunity to be with their families in a comfortable home environment as they live with their chronic condition.

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